Despite all the talk of boycotts, and the steady growth of the apartheid slur, Israel has more support in the world than it is often given credit for. Many of its supporters are happy to throw themselves into arguments, online and in the real world, in its defence. There are a wide range of points deployed by both sides in the argument, many of which are convincing and thought-provoking- as arguments in a debate should be. Others, despite their good intentions, are quite simply embarassing- one may say ‘toxic assets’. The four arguments that I list in this article are not only ineffective, but most significantly they give a negatively misleading portrayal of both Israel and her supporters.
1. The Religion/Bible Argument:
Religious people are quite possibly the biggest group of Israel’s supporters, and for that the Jewish State is lucky and deeply grateful. But the thing is, whipping out the Bible as a reason to support Israel or justify Israeli actions is really not effective. That is obviously not to say that religious support for Israel shouldn’t be wanted or shouldn’t be warranted, but to declare that ‘the Bible says that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews’ to a Muslim or better yet, to an Atheist in a debate, is quite embarassing and has no place in serious academic or political discussion. To use religion or the Bible for the purpose of convincing a non-religious person or someone who doesn’t believe in the Old Testament counter-intuitively reinforces the falsities that:
-Israel is some kind of backwards desert theocracy.
-The conflict is a consequence of religiously-fuelled fundamentalist Jews taking Arab land.
-There is no such thing as secular support for Israel.
This is suggested when Israel is actually an advanced democracy that respects all of its religions, the religious fundamentalism is most dangerous on the other side, and Zionism was originally a secular political movement to escape the problems that religion caused European Jews. Zionism’s atheist Godfather Theodor Herzl would certainly slam his head against the wall if he saw such comments, and the atheist father of the Israeli right, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, would probably join him.
Moreover, it is functionally the equivalent of a Muslim quoting the Quran to justify Israel’s destruction, and from there the debate devolves into the disappointing theological pissing contest of ‘My Bible is better than your Bible!’- the religious equivalent of ‘my daddy is better than your daddy’. And with that, the Bible should be kept out of any political debate on Israel- it doesn’t hold water and merely serves to support negative stereotypes made about Israel.
2. (After googling for a little while) “The Quran says Israel belongs to the Jews!”
This is a particularly frustrating one; it’s not just an argument from religion, it’s having the audacity to choose select terminology or verses from Muslim scriptures (typically unearthed from a few minutes on Google) with little to no understanding of the context or background, in order to justify your own argument. Congratulations, you know the word ‘taqqiya’! Does that make you qualified to make insightful commentary on the religion and its principles? As previously mentioned, religion should be kept out of the debate to the furthest extent possible; this is about as annoying as having Neturei Karta thrown in your face to ‘prove’ that ‘True Torah Jews want to exterminate Israel!’. Leave the theology to the theologians, or if you really want to bother with it, at least learn about Islam first and get a solid understanding of it before you engage in a discussion.
3. “Palestinians don’t exist”
Who came up with the idea that just flat-out denying the existence of the other side could actually be a useful argument? Newsflash: the 11 million Arabs that Israel has been in conflict with for the last 67 years do indeed exist, and are not miscellaneous. They have a national identity, history, culture, recipes, dances and customs as well as their own particular dialect of Arabic, that have led to the development of their national self-identification. The history of their nationalism, and even the validity of their claim to self-determination can certainly be debated and criticised, but no, it is not possible to deny that Palestinians exist. Simply saying ‘they don’t exist’ makes neither the people, nor the debate go away. As previously stated, there are a lot of holes in their own historical narrative of the conflict (the ‘refugee’ problem, the history of ‘Arab Palestine’ or its historical existence as an independent entity, the origins of Palestinian nationalism, etc) but the fact of the matter is that the people and the problem both exist, and denial won’t solve that.
Learning about the history of the conflict, the history of Palestinian nationalism, and the reality of the Palestinian refugee issue are a far better use of time and effort than trying to suggest that ‘Palestinians don’t exist’. Actually understanding the background and context of the conflict, and using that understanding to dispel historical myths, is more useful than flat-out denial of a reality.
4. “Islam is an evil ideology and Israel must defeat it!”
Excellent! Let’s ostracise, prejudice and insult 20% of the global population! This is possibly the most stupid thing that anyone could come out with on the Israeli side. Islam has never killed people- it is not a weapon, it is not a person, it is a belief- people have killed people by being misled, indoctrinated or by misunderstanding beliefs, which has happened throughout history in every religion- Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism, even Buddhism all have their lunatic fringes- Islam’s own crazy bunch just happens to be in a zeitgeist due to the vacuum left by the end of Arab Nationalism and economic situation in the East and a failure to integrate Muslim immigrants in the West.
The conflict is nothing to do with religion, and is everything to do with economics and social factors. Palestinians wanted land in the early 20th century because it was land, not because the Quran told them to take it. Religion was used as a device, as it still is today, to get people to take up the economic causes of an elite (the Husseini family is an early example, the Arafat family is a later one). The Spanish inquisition is another such example- Jews were not killed by Christianity, rather Philip of Spain needed money to fund his wars. It is a religious war when it is made into one. By attacking Islam, one merely furthers the convictions of Muslims that Jews and their supporters are “out to get them”- a concept that Arab leaders have historically propagated through the ‘Crusader analogy’- which triggers a defensive reaction. Not only that, but there are more Muslims than is commonly believed that support Israel, among them the massively heroic Muhammed Zoabi– the question stands, does he deserve to be denounced and called a ‘Muslim terrorist’ when he is a more staunch and astute defender of the State of Israel than some Jews? Islam, like Israel is here to stay. Reconciliation is the best way forward if a future of conflict (in my generation) is to be avoided. Generalisation and prejudice are stupid, but in this instance it is of a particularly vile and self-defeating sort.
There are so many wonderful reasons to support Israel, and with that so many valid, provocative debates that can be deployed in its defence. The latter four are, however, little more than unintelligent babble that serves to harm, rather than aid, the Jewish State and its reputation, both of which are under siege from lies- lies that are perpetuated by comments like these.